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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Common Barn-Owl -- Tyto alba
(formerly Barn Owl)


RANGE: Resident from southwestern British Columbia, southern Idaho, and Montana east to southern Vermont and Massachusetts south through the United States to South America. Northernmost populations are partially migratory, wintering south to southern Mexico and the West Indies.

STATUS: Uncommon; overall population level is low, but stable.

HABITAT: Found in open to semi-open habitats such as prairie, farmland, savannah, marshland, and desert, but prefers the vicinity of farms and towns. Avoids woodlands and higher elevations.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Abundant supply of small mammals for food, and hollow trees, old buildings, barns, cavities, or caves for nesting and roosting.

NEST: Nests in a variety of sites. Favors natural tree hollows, especially in live oaks near a marshy meadow. Typically nests in old barns, church and school steeples, silos, or abandoned buildings. Also uses protected ledges along cliff faces, abandoned underground burrows of badgers, woodchucks, or other mammals, caves, cavities in high stream banks (8 to 10 feet above water level), abandoned nests of crows, hawks, or magpies, and artificial nest sites. Will return to the same nest site year after year if undisturbed.

FOOD: Hunts by night over marshes, meadows, fields, barnyards, brushy areas, pastures, and other open areas for small mammals, especially mice, and occasionally small birds and large insects. Also eats some frogs, snakes, lizards, and crayfish.

REFERENCES: Coats in Farrand 1983b, DeGraff et al. 1980, Hawbecker 1945, Heintzelman 1979, Johnsgard 1979, Karalus and Eckert 1974, Tate and Tate 1982.


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